Develop a scalable plan and budget. Your plan doesn’t need to be extensive, but it does need to be effective. Build the plan so it fits your startup budget and then scale it so it can easily take advantage of those strategies that pay off near term and are extensible long term. Focus on your product or service and put your money there first. Without it, you’ll have nothing to market. Remember, the plan isn’t chiseled in stone. It needs to be flexible enough that you can update it easily as your business grows and customers change.
Have a great product or service. This is something of a “duh!” but the market is flooded with great campaigns for crummy products. To be authentic, your product or service needs to be aligned with and deliver on the promise you’re making, the one that is going to solve the customers’ problem.
Build a trustworthy brand. A brand is not your logo. It is the sum of the experience people have with your company, product, service and even you, the owner. Invest in developing a brand with an unparalleled customer experience. Being bland with your brand is a shortcut to failure. Invest in a strong, professional brand that is in line with who you are and what your customers aspire to be.
Get a website. In the old days, a website was a luxury. Now it is your 24-hour a day storefront. Make sure your website has the information your customers want and need to make a purchasing decision. Be honest and transparent. Customers can smell a phony miles away. Be sure to offer a customer support function. At the bare minimum, a Frequently Asked Questions section and a contact form. Better yet, add real-time customer chat. If you are selling products, an online store is a must these days. Customers expect it.
Make a solid pitch. You should be able to answer the question “What do you do?” in a couple of short, powerful sentences. If you can’t explain your business using a traditional elevator pitch, you need to simplify it so that anyone can understand your unique place in the market. It needs to be punchy, memorable and serve as the core of the story you’re telling.
Get social. Social media is free. That said, don’t make it all about you. If all you do is pitch your business, product, or service in social media, you’re going to lose your audience, and worse, prospects. Use social media to share expertise or great ideas, demonstrate new ways customers are using your product or service, post videos of customer testimonials or share limited-time offers. Create added value whenever you can.
Data is your best friend. This goes back to knowing your customers. You should track every interaction with your customers so that you can market effectively to them over time. A prospect isn’t always ready to buy when they first come into contact with you, but mastering the data will help you stay top of mind as they go through the buying cycle as a prospect turns into a customer. A well-maintained customer database can help you effectively target emails, social media posts, offers and e-newsletters to specific segments of your audience at specific times.